NEW YORK -- This year's International Fancy Food & Confection show held here saw a 7.7% increase in buyers and exhibitors over last year, according to show organizers, as well as an increase in diversity.
"The biggest change was 42 foreign countries showing products, compared with 32 last year, so there was a great increase, particularly from North Africa -- Tunisia and Morocco -- a bigger international presence than usual," said Ron Tanner, vice president for communications and education for the show's sponsor, the National Association of Specialty Food Trade, also based here.
There were more than nine aisles of Italian products, about the same as in previous years, Tanner said, but Italy had more booths than any other country but the United States. "As this industry gets bigger, it gets more diverse," Tanner said.
A record number of exhibitors from Greece -- 43 in all -- participated in the show, the 45th annual, held last month at the Jacob Javits Center here. The two Greek pavilions displayed foods like extra virgin olive oil, olives, dried fruits and vegetables, roasted peppers and pepperoncini, pasta, new spreads and jams, candies, wines and Greek spirits. Portuguese specialty foods debuted too -- more extra virgin and organic olive oils, herb and wine vinegars, herb teas, sea salt and Piri-Piri hot dried cooking spice. There were 231 olive oils shown altogether.
A contingent of British companies celebrated an honor given to a relish made by one of their fellows. The NASFT gave the title of "Outstanding Savory Condiment" to Elsenham Horseradish Relish with Mustard Seeds, imported from Elsenham, in England, by La Favorite, Pawtucket, R.I.
"When you win these contests, it underscores the quality and the product's consistency," said Anthony Barry, president and chief executive officer of La Favorite. The winning relish is traditionally used on sandwiches, but can also be used to coat meat before grilling. This product and others in the line are carried in U.S. stores by Rainbow Foods, Minneapolis, Barry said.
Food From Britain, Greenwich, Conn., plans to coordinate promotions of British Center Store products later this year in supermarkets, according to Steve Dawson, president of the marketing firm.
Several states had agriculture-department booths, where small manufacturers shared space. One of them was Vidalia Onion Bros., St. Simons, Ga. The Department of Agriculture owns the Vidalia trademark, but lets companies use it, explained John L. McCune, owner and president of Onion Bros. The company was showing Vidalia barbecue sauce, onion relish, salsa, honey and jarred sweet peppers and onions, the most popular. The products are in Harris Teeter , McCune said. Publix Super Markets and a few other retailers are also looking at the line. "We are very selective about grocery stores that we want to be in. Our target market is upscale -- it's a premium product."
McCune was not alone. Some exhibitors expressed reservations about going into supermarkets, because of slotting and other fees, but others were happy to be there.
Chris Drake, president of Woodstream Specialty Foods, Keene, N.H., producer of the Drake's Ducks brand, was showing pesto in different flavors. He said he almost went bankrupt two years ago, after paying fees for shelf space and advertising. Consequently, he now deals with natural-food distributors.
On the other hand, Stella D'Oro, an Italian biscuit supermarket fixture in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, introduced two new biscotti to its cookie line. Another company pleased to be in supermarkets is Columbia Empire Farms, Sherwood, Ore. First-time exhibitors Linda Strand and Janet Pendergrass said, "The timing could not have been better." Their Doodleberry jam started shipping May 24.